On Sunday 1 October, St James’ will offer Audio Description at the 11:00am Choral Eucharist. We are pleased to be working with Vision Australia to provide this important service to those who are blind or have low vision. Visitors will be most welcome to attend on this day and we hope to welcome some new people to the parish.

What is Audio Description?
Audio Description (AD) offers people who are blind or have low vision an understanding of what is happening visually in theatre, on television, film or DVD, in a museum, at an exhibition or other arts related productions. We are hoping to extend this to our church services from time to time.  This will be an additional narration that succinctly paints an image of transitions, movements, gestures, objects and settings woven between the spoken and sung words of the service.

Why describe a church service?
Our style of liturgy and worship at St James’ involves all the senses. We hear the words of scripture read; we hear a sermon, the prayers, hymns and musical settings, organ, choir, and the sound of the church bells. We see the stained glass windows, vestments and robes worn by the choir, servers, Lay Assistants and Ministers; we see the mosaics on the floor, the candles, the movement of the procession, and the silverware used for Communion. We touch in the handshake we offer at the greeting of the peace; we may touch the bread and the chalice with the Communion wine. We taste the bread and the wine. We smell the flowers and the incense. Our liturgy is very deliberately designed like this, but if you take away one of those senses, you are still able to participate using your other senses. All can take part and feel uplifted by our worship.

What will happen on the day?
Our morning services will occur as usual at 7:45am and 9:00am. Those attending the 11:00am service will be given the option of a braille copy of the Order of Service and/or a small hand-held device with an ear-piece/headphones. At various times during the service, movements and actions of the service will be described and transmitted to the ear-pieces. This will have no impact on the rest of the congregation.

We have chosen 1 October because it is the Sunday in the Octave of St Michael and All Angels. We will celebrate the festival of Michael and All Angels with a Processional Hymn at the beginning of the service. For those sitting in the pews, the choir and ministers will process around the aisles of the church, singing the Processional Hymn led by the incense. This ‘surround sound’ experience is a deliberate and powerful expression of our welcome, our inclusivity and our desire to give the fullest experience of worship at St James’. By bringing the procession around the church, it will help us all to feel part of the service, rather than detached from what is happening in the Chancel and Sanctuary.
After the service, we will offer a ‘tactile tour’ in the Chancel and at the foot of the Chancel steps. Objects used in the service such as the chalices, patens, candles, incense, vestments and the processional cross will be made available.

Do people need to be regular church-goers to attend?
Everyone is always welcome at St James’. Visitors may find that what they experience during the service demands some further discussion and exploration, in which case we encourage them to come again. The structure of the liturgy at St James’ is rich and complex. Visitors may find that certain parts of the service feel unfamiliar and they might not know what to do next. We will do everything we can to make everyone feel welcome and to help to navigate through the service. There are hymns to sing along to (the words will be printed in braille, if required) and prayers that we say together; visitors can join in or just listen if they prefer. When it comes time for Communion, all who are used to receiving Communion in their own church are welcome to do so here. For those who have never received Communion before, or if that is not part of their usual practice, they are welcome to come forward to the Altar rail to receive a blessing.

Are tickets required?
Church services at St James’ are always free to attend and anyone can come along. Tickets are not required.

Is this a one off?
It is our hope that these Audio Described services will be offered several times every year. To make this a regular feature of our year, we would like to invest in the technical equipment to do this in-house. Vision Australia have a limited number of devices for loan and these are in high demand. If you would like to offer financial support for this project please contact the Parish Office or speak to one of the clergy.

To find out more, please contact Christopher Waterhouse, Director of the St James’ Institute on 02 8227 1305 or email christopher.waterhouse@sjks.org.au